After Oakridge, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington, the next stop on our awesome OR/WA Mountain Bike Road Trip was Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is an adorable “Bavarian” mountain town in the Alps-like Washington Cascades. Leavenworth is on the east side of Stevens Pass (both the ski resort and the physical feature) on Highway 2. I drove Highway 2 across the state during college when I was traveling between my hometown of Reardan and Bellingham, so I’ve been through Leavenworth lots of times, and I’ve stayed there with friends and family several times.
While the Bavarian theme can be a little cheesy, Leavenworth is an amazing town. In the Leavenworth area, there is great camping (I’ve stayed at Lake Wenatchee State Park), epic backpacking and hiking (the PCT runs by Stevens Pass), Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River flow through town, so there are swimming, floating and rafting opportunities galore, world class climbing, great food, wineries and beer, and more! The drive along Highway 2 from Everett in the Seattle area is beautiful and is almost worth the trip by itself.
Greyson and I met my parents at Stevens Pass to caravan the last segment of the drive to the rental house. We stopped at a couple of points along the way to stick our feet in the gorgeous (and cold!) Wenatchee River.
Obviously of interest to us this trip was the mountain biking, which Leavenworth is also on the map for. Nearby Stevens Pass offers lift serviced biking (sadly, only on weekends so we missed out by arriving on a Monday) and the epic, 24 mile, 3,000 foot climb and descent on the Devils Gulch Trail is on my bucket list, and there are many more trails in the area. We weren’t sure which of the trails we wanted to tackle! Luckily, two of my best friends from college, Morgan and Tommy, met us in Leavenworth, and Tommy is an avid mountain biker. He recommended Freund Canyon.
Freund Canyon (called Freund Climb to Rosy Boa on MTBProject) turned out to be an amazingly fun, featured, and flowy trail with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that are so beautiful, you are slightly distracted from the brutal climb.
It was pretty hot by the time we got on the trail, which did not make the 1,950 foot climb any easier. The climb wasn’t technical at all, just unrelenting. I’m in much better mountain bike shape than I have been in the last couple of years, but it still took me over an hour to do the ~4 mile climb.
The hour of suffering (Type 2 fun!) was truly cancelled out by the incredible downhill. We lost those ~2,000 feet in about 3.5 miles of fun berms and jumps, well built out of Washington’s amazing dirt. This is one of my favorite trails I’ve ever ridden (even though I don’t jump my bike, except when I get a tiny bit of accidental air), and I was woo-ing it up with pure joy. Some of the berms are built so that you’re turning into the steep, downhill side of the mountain, which felt a little disconcerting (what if the berm collapses and I fly into space?), but for the most part I felt comfortable letting off by brakes a little and flying down the trail. Greyson and I were talking about it later, and decided that the downhill part felt a lot like resort riding without the crowds. It was definitely a very “built” trail.
Location: Freund Canyon Rd., Leavenworth, Washington
Mileage: 7.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,95o feet
We spent a couple of days hanging out in Leavenworth – swimming in the river, drinking beer, eating good food, watching turkey vultures, ospreys and a bald eagle from the deck of our rental cabin, and we even had some very special guests on the morning we left – a mama bear and her two cubs up in a tree. Greyson got some great pictures with his nice camera.
After an amazing time in Oakridge, Greyson and I pointed north (and west) towards Bellingham, Washington! I went to Bellingham back in February to visit friends and test ride a Transition Smuggler, the bike I ended up buying. I’ve been loving riding my Smuggler all over the Sierra, and I was excited to bring it back “home” to ride on the terrain that it was designed for.
While there is a lot of seemingly awesome riding in the Bellingham area, Greyson and I decided to keep it easy and head back to the trails at Galbraith that we had ridden in February. Hopefully, with less taking the wrong trail, backtracking and bonking. Galbraith is an amazing trail network located in the city of Bellingham, just a quick pedal from downtown. The trails of Galbraith have something for everyone – flowy single track, long climbs, wooden features, jumps, drops and more on the sticky, perfect Bellingham dirt. There are more than 50 miles of singletrack on 3,000 acres of privately owned land. Galbraith trails are built and maintained by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Club (WMBC), who have more than 30 years of stewardship on the property. They also have the Joyriders, a women’s ride club that I follow jealously on Instagram.
I had such an amazing time riding at Galbraith that I didn’t stop to take pictures, even of the gorgeous views of the Olympics and Bellingham Bay, so apologies for the text heavy post. We started at the trailhead on Birch Street, the Galbraith Mountain Bike Park North Entrance, heading up Miranda to the Ridge Trail. When we did this trail in February, we missed the correct entrance and ended up pushing our bikes up a steep, punishing slope (a huge reason that I think I bonked) to join with the Ridge Trail. This time we figured out that we needed to go left up some tight switchbacks, and our hunch was confirmed by a very friendly woman at the trailhead with her dog.
After climbing up for ~1.4 miles and ~500 feet, we were back at a familiar trail marker with a detailed map at a nexus of several trails, including Family Fun Center, Upper Bob’s and Cedar Dust. We rode Family Fun Center, a ~0.25 mile trail that’s mostly downhill (with a short climb at the end) until it intersected a fire road. We remembered from February that turning left on the fire road would bring us to an intersection with SST, a Galbraith classic.
We stopped on the fire road to gear up for the downhill. I probably didn’t need to, but I had just gotten some new, lighter weight kneepads before this trip (SixSixOne Recon, highly recommended, review coming soon). I also had had so much trouble with watering eyes on the Alpine Trail that I wanted to put on goggles to see if that would help. After I was geared up, we hit the trail. I had so much fun on SST this time! At this point in February, I was completely bonked and my confidence was so shattered that I ended up walking so much of this trail, despite it being entirely rideable for me. This time I rode everything, and I rode it well. I could tell this is exactly the type of trail my bike is made for. The twenty-nine inch wheels rolled over all the rooty and rocky drops and the geometry was perfect for the downhills and the short, steep uphills I encountered.
After SST, we rode Backdoor to the road crossing, carried our bikes cyclocross style up a couple of flights of steps and we were back on Miranda for some tight switchbacks on the way down. We ended up the at the trailhead with huge smiles on our faces, and ready for a beer! I had so much more fun riding at Galbraith this time around. Last time, I was on an unfamiliar bike, out of bike shape and not nutritionally prepared. I’ve also improved my riding a fair amount this summer.
If you’re looking for a short (<4 miles), intermediate loop, this is a really fun one. I got a lot of bang for my buck (aka a lot of fun downhill for the climb) and it showcases the kind of riding Galbraith is known for, with well built trails, a little bit of unpredictability with rooty drops and narrow trees, nice views and great dirt. P.S. Don’t forget to stop by Aslan Brewing Company for a beer after your ride!
Trails Ridden: Miranda, Ridge Trail, Family Fun Center, Lower SST, and Backdoor
Location: Bellingham, Washington via Birch St
Mileage: 3.7 miles
Elevation gain: ~750 feet
I just got back from an amazing road trip, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and beer drinking across Oregon and Washington. I had a great time at all of our stops, both those I’ve visited before and those that were new to me. I’ll be recapping our whole trip over the next couple weeks. Our first stop was Oakridge, Oregon.
Oakridge, Oregon is a small town nestled in the heart of the Cascades and parallels the Willamette River, about an hour east of Eugene on Highway 58. Oakridge had been a busy logging town, but since the down turn in the logging industry, it had struggled, with many businesses closing and families moving away. Oakridge is a beautiful place, with trails for hiking, camping spots along Salmon Creek, rafting and fishing opportunities on local rivers and streams, and, more recently, trails for mountain biking. Oakridge has become a popular destination for mountain bikers – only 2.5 hours from Portland and a “quick” ~7 hours from the Bay Area and Tahoe. (Greyson and I stopped by the local brewery for dinner and literally everyone eating on the patio was visiting from California.)
Mountain biking and other outdoor adventures are helping to bring some much needed money and business to Oakridge. However, it’s a much more complicated story than “mountain biking saves dying logging town!” – check out this interesting article from NPR:
For decades after World War II, the small town of Oakridge in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon was a booming lumber town. But by the early 1990s, the lumber industry had collapsed, and Oakridge has struggled ever since, losing families and businesses. Now, residents like Randy Dreiling are trying to reinvent the place as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Dreiling owns Oregon Adventures, which offers mountain bike tours. Some 350 miles of trails have earned Oakridge the self-proclaimed title of “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest. Mountain biking is just a piece of the pie. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s what we got. And it’s been good to us,” he says. “Anybody that’s being honest to themselves can see the amount of people mountain biking is bringing to town — more and more every year.”
Greyson found us an awesome campsite, Salmon Creek Falls Campground, about five miles outside of town. We snagged one of the last few first-come, first-serve campsites and set up the tent. This campground has some amazing spots right along the river, but I’m guessing you have to get there early on a weekday to get one of them.
While there are a ton of trails in the Oakridge area, mostly built and maintained by GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), we had decided to shuttle the Alpine Trail, booking a shuttle with Oregon Adventures, a local shuttle and tour company. They describe the Alpine Trail as
Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine.
I pre-booked the shuttle for 8:45 am the next day, so we decided to head in from our campsite for an early dinner and to scope out where we’d be meeting up. We (surprise, surprise) ended up at the only brewery in town, the Brewers Union Local 180. The brewery only has cask ale (or as they claim, the only “real ale” in Oregon) which undergoes a secondary fermentation in a wooden cask. These ales are much less carbonated that a typical IPA (it reminded me of a beer on nitro), and both of the ones we tried were tasty. This was by far the most popular restaurant in town, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a long wait for food and beer, but both were worth it. We even met a group of people we’d be riding the shuttle with (and the Oregon Adventures owner!) at the brewery that night.
We met bright and early at the Oregon Adventures parking lot to drop off bikes with the shuttle van, and carpool to the bottom of the trail, a few miles from headquarters. We reconvened with the ten or so other riders, loaded into the shuttle and were off on the ~30 minute ride. The shuttle driver was very helpful, pointing out road crossings and landmarks that we’d use on the ride back, and soon arrived at our destination. While shuttling the Alpine Trail means a mostly downhill ride, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any climbing. In fact, you start off the trail with a ~350 foot climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs.
After less than a mile of climbing, you come to a flat, grassy field with a narrow trail cut out and beautiful views. I remember commenting to Greyson about how it was hard to ride in such a narrow trail, and that I kept bumping my wheel on the edges. Little did I know that this was just a preview of the majority of the trail width to come!
The day was cool and cloudy, which was nice but I had a real problem with my sunglasses fogging up for most of the day! After the meadow, we rode into the trees and the first of the many downhills. At this point, we stopped to put on kneepads. This was the first of many stops – we definitely did not break any speed records on this trail. One of the coolest things about this trail was that it had some of everything – awesomely sticky Oregon dirt, miles of fast, flowy sections, rocky and rooty drops, long climbs, steep exposure, loose rocky sections, epic views and closed in forest canopies.
I’m used to the wider trails of the Sierra, so the narrow, more overgrown trails took some getting used to, and I definitely walked some sections of narrow trail that had steep exposure. Luckily, the Alpine Trail seemed to be about 85% fun flow on good dirt, with a smaller percentage of steep climbs, loose rocks, and only a few sections that I needed to walk.
According to my Garmin, we climbed about 1,224 feet over the 13.8 miles (the shuttle cut off some climbing and mileage from the full, official Alpine Trail.) The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. We got a little confused at about 12.5 miles in, where there was a junction. The MTB Project app told us to go right to stay on the Alpine Trail, but we were pretty sure we needed to go left to get back to our car. One of the things our shuttle driver told us at the beginning was “when in doubt, go left.” We went left and followed an obviously newer trail (I think called A.T.A.C., but I’m not 100% sure) that did bring us back to our cars.
We quickly loaded up and headed straight for pizza and beer. The pizza wasn’t amazing, but we were hungry so that didn’t matter all too much. After buying some cans of local beer, we went back to the campsite and spent some time lounging in my birthday ENO hammock for national hammock day.
Salmon Creek Falls campground is next to (no surprise) a creek and a small waterfall. Just upstream from the waterfall was a great, but cold swimming hole. We tentatively waded in, and, once my feet and legs were numb, the water felt great!
We stayed two nights in Oakridge and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more trails! The town was beautiful, the people were friendly, the beer was good and the mountain biking was phenomenal. That’s all I can really ask in a destination. I loved camping at Salmon Creek Falls, and there are a number of motels in downtown Oakridge. The Alpine Trail was worth traveling for, and it’s a trail I’d love to do again with a little more confidence now that I know what it’s like.
Last year, I shared my top essentials for an amazing summer by Lake Tahoe. Now I’m back to share more of my favorite things for a perfect summer!
Something to lounge around in/on. We’ve all seen the hammocks that are all over Instagram, and I have an ENO two person hammock that I’m sure will get a ton of use on Greyson and my road trip next week. But even better, I got a LayBag for my birthday from Greyson’s parents!
The LayBag™ as a brand-new product and the lifestyle innovation of the season has been created to perfectly relax anywhere. The inflatable sofa that fills air within seconds is super comfortable and can be described as a clever combination of an inflatable couch with the very simple filling-technique used on dry-bags. No external pump needed!
Therefore it can be inflated and deflated within seconds and stored in a small carrying-bag giving you the opportunity to carry your LayBag anywhere you want, giving you more time to lounge on your LayBag.
I took the LayBag for its first test run this past weekend. We watched the instructional video first, which made inflation look super simple, just flapping the LayBag through the air while alternating sides, roll, clip, and done. It was a little more complicated, and we definitely needed a breeze to help us out. We did get it filled pretty quickly once the wind picked up, and I was floating in no time.
Sun Shirt/Rashguard. Before Indonesia, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of a sun shirt or rashguard. I thought I’d be too hot, and that it couldn’t work that well. I started coming around on the idea when I rafted the American River last June. I wore a NRS Rashguard in the boat, and I didn’t burn at all, and barely had to reapply sunscreen. When I got too hot, I got in the water, shirt and all and the wet fabric helped me stay cool. In Raja Ampat, where it was often over 90 degrees and 90% humidity, I wore a sun shirt pretty much any time I was outside and not in the water. I don’t go to that extent in our fairly mild Tahoe summers, but sun shirts are really nice for hiking on high altitude, exposed trails. Hint for tall/long armed women: this men’s columbia button down in a medium fit me perfectly. I also have a men’s Patagonia sun shirt with a hood that is really comfy.
Approach Shoes: I am a huge fan of sandals like Chacos (which you can probably tell by my telltale Z tan in the above photo!) for summer adventures, but they aren’t perfect for everything. Approach shoes fill the gap when you want something with more protection than sandals, a softer sole than trail runners, and more low key than hiking boots. I recently bought a pair of Five Ten Guide Tennies and they have been great for all sorts of activities this summer. Their sticky bottoms are great for scrambling around on the granite of Donner Summit, they protect my toes from loose rocks on the approach to the climbing wall, and I’ve even worn them biking when I have flat pedals on my mountain bike.
Hydration System: The air up here in Tahoe is very dry, and it’s important to stay hydrated during your runs, hikes, rides, climbs, etc. (especially if you plan on sampling some of the great beer we have up here!) I’m a big fan of hydration packs, especially for mountain bike rides and hikes. I have and LOVE the CamelBak Solstice. It’s a mountain bike specific hydration pack with lots of extra features, which I think add to the functionality of the Solstice.
Our newest women’s mountain bike pack is a low rider. The Solstice™ is a full-featured pack that shifts your load—and most importantly, your water supply—down towards your waist. That small change gives you a lower center of gravity and a wider range of motion, which makes it easier to maneuver as you’re barreling downhill. The Solstice also stores enough water and gear for a full day on the trail: a 3-liter Antidote® reservoir, helmet hooks, attachment points for soft armor, and a tool roll to keep your gear organized. We designed the Solstice specifically for women, with an S-shaped harness that curves comfortably around your chest, and a slightly shorter back panel for a more ergonomic fit. The velvetex-lined harness also keeps the straps from chafing against your skin.
For hiking, I have an older Osprey Packs Raptor pack, which is technically a bike specific pack. I like it better for hiking than biking, and I love the fact that the bladder has the easy to use Nalgene screw top. I’ve even gone on some trail runs with this pack, but it’s not the best for that. I almost bought the Osprey Rev 6 to use for trail running/biking, but I decided on a bike specific pack since I use it way more. For running, I’ve been sticking with a handheld bottle, like this Nathan VaporMax Plus.
Cush Comforts for Car Camping. Did you like my alliteration there? I love car camping, and, one of the reasons why I love it is how comfortable you can be! While a few pieces of lighter weight gear make their way into my car camping set up (ahem, this super comfortable Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Pillow), I take advantage of the packing room to bring some larger items. My favorite is a super comfortable sleeping pad. I have the backcountry.com knock off of the Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp (which it looks like they don’t make any more, sadly). If you’re not worried about space and you are worried about comfort, look for a car camping mattress that has a foam core AND inflates.
Greyson recently bought himself a Yeti Cooler. Yes, they are really expensive. Yes, they are really heavy. Yes, they are really that awesome at keeping your food cold. Definitely go check them out in person before you buy them, though, because all of that insulation comes at a price – the usable space inside the cooler. Stay tuned later this month for more of my car camping recommendations!
A Perfect Summer Cocktail: I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet drinks (black coffee, gin & tonics, and IPAs, all the way!), but this fruit and herb infused cocktail is perfect for summer.
Muddle half a lime, a couple spoonfuls of watermelon and 4-5 large basil leaves in the bottle of a rocks glass.
Pour in a shot or two of your favorite gin.
Add ice to top of the glass.
Finish with tonic and enjoy! I like to garnish with a slice of watermelon when I’m feeling fancy.
So there are a few of my essentials for this summer. What are you loving right now?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
It’s now nearly mid-April and we’re deep into Spring Shoulder Season! I thought I’d continue my series of posts on fun things to do in Tahoe during the shoulder season. While the Tahoe area hosts a number of “real” triathlons in the summer months, organized races are scarce during the spring. To fill this gap, I like to put together what I call a “Tahoe Triathlon”.
There is no official rulebook for the Tahoe Triathlon, but participants must complete three recreational activities all in one day. Since it’s the shoulder season, none of these activities will be top notch (ie probably no powder turns and the trails will have some mud and snow), but quality isn’t the emphasis here. You can pick whatever outdoor activities you want and vary them as necessary due to conditions. (bonus points for combining winter and spring sports, especially if you manage the same outfit for all legs!)
Here’s my dream itinerary for a Snowboard/Mountain Bike/Swim Tahoe Triathlon in Truckee: Start off the day with some turns at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Be sure to get there early before it warms up too much and don’t forget your sunscreen!
I hope you brought some trail snacks, because we’re heading straight to Emigrant Trail, a little north of Truckee off of Highway 89. Emigrant Trail isn’t my favorite Truckee mountain bike trail, but it is one of the first ones to melt out – so it’s perfect for a spring Tahoe Triathlon.
After a 10-15 mile (depending on how we’re feeling) out and back, we re-group and drive to our final leg – the “swim” in Donner Lake. While it may have been swimming season for weeks in other parts of California, spring in Tahoe still means very cold lakes. Therefore, the swim will most likely be more like a polar bear plunge.
Since West End Beach hasn’t officially opened for the season, you can park there for free. After your icy dip, I recommend heading straight for a hot tub. If you don’t have access to a nearby hot tub, you can warm up over beers at Mellow Fellow.
If that itinerary doesn’t sound like fun, there are dozens of other Tahoe Triathlon activities you can try: stand up paddle boarding, XC skiing, bouldering, trail running, outdoor yoga, slack lining, hiking…the list goes on and on.
What activities would you put in your “Tahoe Triathlon”?
I am kind of an obsessive list maker when it comes to traveling. What? I just like to be organized. Since this was my first trip to Indonesia, first ever SCUBA dive trip, and first international vacation in a long time, I was seriously stumped on how to pack. I did a lot of googling phrases like “scuba trip packing list” “what to pack for Indonesia” “how many pairs of underwear for 15 days”. While I didn’t find a one stop shop for a packing list, I cobbled together my own packing list using a few different resources (including this “how many underwear to pack” chart).
Here’s a screenshot of my obsessively categorized and color coded packing list:
For reference, our trip was basically 5 days of travel time (2 there, 3 back) and 10 days SCUBA diving at the resort. We really didn’t do any other traveling or activities other than SCUBA/snorkel/swim. So if you’re going to be doing any hiking, temple visiting, climbing, etc., you’ll want to reference some other lists as well. I packed a lot of things I already owned and had for a long time. For items that were specifically awesome, I’ll link to them.
Dresses x 2 – I find dresses from “adventure” brands like Patagonia and prAna hold up to wrinkling well.
Spandex shorts (to wear under the dress for anti-chafing)
Tank Top x 5 – I highly recommend loose, blousy tanks. I just brought old and/or cheap Target ones. The only thing I ended up not wearing was a fitted workout tank with built in bra. It seemed too hot for something that fitted! If we had gone hiking, I probably would have worn it, though.
SPF Long Sleeve Shirts x 3 – it felt weird taking 3 long sleeve shirts to the tropics, but I wore them every single day for sun protection. Columbia and Patgonia have nice ones.
Shorts x 3 – I packed knee length stretch denim shorts and, though I wore them once, I regretted it. My other ones were cheap black and khaki ones from Old Navy.
Sports Bra x 3 – didn’t pack a real bra, never regretted it.
Quick Dry Underwear x 5 – nothing is quick dry in the tropics. Wish I packed more underwear.
Socks x 3 – compression socks for the plane and two extras. Didn’t need the other socks.
Swim Suits – Tops x 4, Bottoms x 3 – I talk about my favorite swimsuits in this post. My favorite swimsuit brands for active ladies are prAna, Athleta, and Calavera.
Sweatshirt – strictly for airplane use. I brought an old zippy that I didn’t care about losing or ruining for easy on/off.
On the plane, I wore lightweight leggings, the grey Krochet Kids t-shirt, compression socks, sweat shirt, and running shoes. I looked a little sloppy, but in the airport I ditched the sweatshirt and running shoes, put on the Sanuks and the straw hat and felt like I looked presentable. In my carryon, I packed a dress, extra underwear, running shorts and my favorite swimsuit. I figured I could get by on that for awhile if my luggage got lost.
Hat x 2: Straw hat and one of Greyson’s dorky visors. I forgot to bring a baseball cap, which I completely regret.
Sunglasses x 3: I like these ones and these ones by Sun Cloud. They have nice, polarized lenses but aren’t so expensive that I’m terrified of losing them.
Sunglasses Strap: I lost this in the ocean partway through. Ooops.
Water Bottle: I usually use a Klean Kanteen, but I wanted the lighter/bigger Nalgene for this trip.
Travel Pillow/Eye Mask/Ear Plugs: Necessary for long flights
Headlamp: Didn’t use, but glad to have it
Life Straw: Ditto
Phone/Charger/Converter: The only electronic that I brought was my iPhone. It was my entertainment/e reader/camera/contact with the outside world. I have a LifeProof Nuud Waterproof Case so I wasn’t too worried about getting it wet, but I never brought it on the daily boat rides. Other people had GoPros and dive housing for their cameras, so I let them take all the actual SCUBA pictures.
Sunscreen – I’m really picky about what sunscreen I’ll use. Since we were spending so much time close to a delicate reef, it was really important to me that I use reef safe sunscreen. I brought two containers of Thinksport SPF 50, which has a good Environmental Working Group rating. It had a bit of a learning curve, as I didn’t apply enough my first time out and got a little burnt on my nose. After I figured out how much I needed to use, I really liked it, especially for my face.
Bug Spray with DEET
Waterproof Mascara/CC Cream/Eyeliner – this was the only makeup that I brought. I rarely wore any, but it was nice to have and all I needed/wanted.
Bronners & Conditioner
Hair Ties & Barrettes/Wide Tooth Comb – the barrettes were essential for keeping my bangs back in the water
Face wash wipes
Deodorant & Body Glide – I was so sweaty all the time, and I’m so glad I brought body glide.
Chapstick x 6 – I am also obsessively worried about losing all my chapstick.
Note: I rented a BCD and regulator from Papua Explorers Resort. The resort also provided weights and a reef hook to the guests.
2.5 mm Full Length Wetsuit – Greyson, you were right. Even at the equator, a full length wetsuit was the right decision.
Mask/fins– I carried by mask and snorkel in my carry on.
Fins/booties – I got the cheapest fins & booties package at the dive shop. I wish I’d gotten slightly nicer ones since I got pretty bad hot spots on my toes.
There’s my list! While (nearly) everything I brought got used, there were a few standout products that I have to call out specifically.
Patagonia Magnolia Dress– I bought this dress in 2011 to wear in a friend’s wedding – it’s got to be the most versatile dress of all time. It barely wrinkles, it’s so comfortable and it’s super flattering. I have it in grey, but it comes in adorable patterns now.
Running shorts – I just brought a couple of old pairs that I had hanging around. I like them because they’re comfortable and dry quickly. I’d recommend ones without built in underwear if possible.
Columbia Sun Shirt – This was on sale, light, it protected me from the sun and let me live out my paleontologist fantasies. At 5’11”, the men’s medium fit me perfectly – way better than any of the women’s shirts.
Calavera Core Lifeguard swim top– this top was the best one to wear under my wetsuit. It’s also great to swim around in. I never worried about falling out or it coming untied, even while pulling my wetsuit on and off. It also didn’t have bulky knots.
Columbia Straw Hat– this hat covered my face, my neck and my dirty hair while looking pretty stylish. It also was able to be re-shaped after I crushed it into my carry on over and over.
BodyGlide– chafing is no joke in the tropics. I used this daily for chafe-proofing my body. When I started developing hot spots on my toes, this stuff helped as well.
Sea to Summit Travel Pillow– I can sleep anywhere, and it’s in part due to this awesome travel pillow. It packs down so small, but blows up big and firm enough for real support.
2.5 mm Full Length Wetsuit – I bought a cheap suit from Seavenger and, while I’m not sure how long it’s going to last me, it worked great for this trip. It was easy to get on and off, didn’t stretch out too much, dried as well as other pricier suits, and never started to smell bad. Note: size down! According to their measurements, I was at the top end of a size 13. I ordered that and it was way too big. Luckily, they had an 11 still in stock and I ordered that. It fit me, and it was nowhere close to too small.
Suunto ZOOP Dive Computer
– This is a pretty basic model, but it was very easy to use. Greyson set it up in just a couple of minutes, and all I had to do was turn it on and jump in the water. Idiot proof!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
While we’ve been enjoying Miracle March, spring shoulder season is fast approaching. And, in my opinion, there’s no better time for a beer tour than spring! Maybe it’s because I’m from the Northwest, but it always seemed to me that the Tahoe area could support more breweries than we had. It took awhile, but better late than never – the brewery scene in Tahoe is finally expanding. Between the new breweries and the arrival of shoulder season, it’s the perfect time to embark on a ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour.
Obviously, you’ll want a designated driver for this endeavor! My route starts in Truckee and heads west, but it can easily be adjusted for whatever starting point you want.
Smokey’s Kitchen: You’ll want a hearty breakfast before starting out, and despite being a BBQ joint, Smokey’s has something delicious for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. For veggies, I recommend the Huevos California and the Donner Pass Omelet for omnivores. If you’re feeling very ambitious, Smokey’s has a few beers on draft, including Racer 5!
The Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co Brew Pub in Tahoe City opens at 11:30 am, so that’s our first brewery stop. Tahoe Mountain is known for its saisons, and that’s what I have to recommend. Try Provisions, a multi-grain Farmhouse saison or ask the bartender for their seasonal recommendation. If you’re a diehard IPA fan (like I am), I like the Hop Dragon Imperial IPA.
Head south on Highway 89, down the gorgeous West Shore of Tahoe. Be sure to pull over at the look out above the famous Emerald Bay. Once you’ve reached South Lake Tahoe, head straight to Coldwater Brewery & Grill. Skip the food and head straight for the bar – you’ll want to try Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye.
Next up is Sidellis Lake Tahoe, just down the road. It’s the newest brewery on this tour, but they’ve already got a few delicious beers. I like their Bitter Creek Pale and their nachos for a quick snack.
Now we’re traveling back north – this time up Tahoe’s East Shore. Be sure to hop out of the car at some point – there’s a nice viewpoint just south of Incline Village, or you can make a longer stop at Sand Harbor State Park.
Need some coffee? You can stop by Tunnel Creek Cafe where they have great coffee and Deschutes beer on draft.
Once you’ve reached Incline Village, Nevada, you’re might be hungry again. Alibi Ale Works doesn’t serve food, but you can bring in takeout (maybe burritos from locals’ favorite T’s Mesquite Rotisserie) and they often have a food truck outside. Alibi always has a bunch of great beers on tap, both their own and from other breweries. They do each beer on a really small scale, so their taps are always changing. This is a good place to get a sample of a bunch of different beers, but, if they have their Scotch Ale on draft, be sure to get that.
You’re on the home stretch now! While not a brewery, you should definitely stop at Mellow Fellow Kings Beach (which is technically on the Nevada side of the line, so don’t miss it). Mellow Fellow has 40 rotating taps, so no matter what you like they’ll have a beer (or two or three…) for you.
The final stop of the tour is back to Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co, but this time, you’ll be hitting up the brewery location in Truckee. You can repeat your favorites from the brewpub, but they’ve often got one or two beers you can’t get anywhere else.
I just spent an amazing two weeks SCUBA diving in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Raja Ampat is a grouping of islands in the West Papua province, off the west coast of New Guinea. It’s gorgeous, full of incredible marine biodiversity and REMOTE. It is a long way from California to Papua Explorers Resort, on Gam Island. This is basically the only way to get from the US West Coast to Raja Ampat, so I thought it might be useful for anyone interested in traveling to that region. (Which, spoiler alert, it is totally worth the travel time!)
Greyson’s parents did all the planning for this amazing trip; I basically just had to show up with my luggage, ready to dive. I knew going into this trip that the journey would be long, but I really just did not have a sense of how far away Raja Ampat was! Our route would include 5 flights, 6 airports, 2 massage chairs, 1 hotel, 1 boat ride, 24 hours of time in the air, and 48+ hours of travel time.
Greyson and I left Truckee, heading for Point Reyes, where his parents live. Once there, we made last minute packing adjustments, checked our passports for the 500th time, packed up the car, and left for the San Francisco Airport.
Leg 1: San Francisco, California > Taipei, Taiwan
We arrived at San Francisco International Airport ~6 hours before our flight. While we teased Greyson’s mom about our super early arrival, it was for a good reason. We were hoping to be first in line and request emergency exit seats. It turns out, we showed up two hours before the check in counter even opened, but, hey, we were definitely first in line. Turning up so early ended up being the right decision, as the restaurants in the SFO international terminal closed at around 7 (weird) so we had to scramble to eat. Our early bird-ness paid off, and we all got the emergency exit row for our 13 hour SFO > Taiwan leg. The flight left at around midnight, so I took a sleeping pill and managed to sleep on an off for close to 8 hours. When I woke up, they fed us breakfast, Greyson and I watched Skyfall and part of Spectre, and we landed. It was so much easier than I was expecting!
Taipei, Taiwan > Changi Airport Singapore
This trip was my first ever trip to Asia, so touching down at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport was my first visit to a new continent! We went quickly through the line for arrivals and were directed towards our gate. We arrived at the Taipei airport super early morning local time, but early afternoon by our internal clocks. I needed caffeine! We walked around until we found a coffee shop about to open, then sat on the floor outside until it did. The caramel latte I ordered gave me the caffeine jolt that I needed, and we set off to do some airport exploring during our 5 hour layover. One of the coolest things about this airport is that all of the gate waiting areas have different themes, like Orchids, Taiwanese Culture, Green Relaxation, and Hello Kitty. There’s a ton of Hello Kitty stuff at this airport – including a Hello Kitty themed nursing room called “Baby Kitty”, and we got to fly to Singapore on a Hello Kitty theme jet! We spent most of our time hanging out in the free massage chairs in the Green Relaxation Area. (Go to the nearby bookstore for the free massage tokens)
Changi Airport Singapore > Jakarta, Indonesia
I had a window seat for this leg and spent most of the descent craning my neck for the best views of Singapore. Flying over the harbor was gorgeous! It was cool to see all of the empty container ships contrasting against the tropical turquoise water. We got off the plane and headed towards baggage claim, since we would be switching airlines and needed to re-check our baggage through to Indonesia. The flight attendants had brought customs declaration forms around the cabin during our flight, but since we were just passing through Singapore, I didn’t think we needed to fill them out. Turns out I was wrong! You definitely need to fill out your customs form when arriving at Changi – learn from my mistake. It’s always nerve wracking going through customs, and we all made a couple of mistakes filling out the form. The customs officials were very efficient and helpful with our rookie mistakes though. The customs agent will look at your form and scan your passport, then stamp and tear off a section of the form. You’ll need this small piece of paper when you head to departures. Don’t lose it!
The Changi Aiport Singapore is always topping the lists of best airports in the world. Now that I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, I can definitely vouch for that. On our way to Indonesia, we hung out at the airport for about 12 hours, but there was so much to do and see that the time went by pretty quickly. I visited the butterfly garden, checked out the high end shops, searched for the massage area (closed for construction, boooo.), charged my phone, and and stretched my legs after the 13 hour flight. Greyson’s family gently teased me the whole trip for my obsessive phone charging, but they appreciated the fact that I always knew where the outlets were! I use my phone as a Kindle, so it was basically my only entertainment for the whole trip, so I was a little obsessive about charging it!
Before this trip, I had only been in airports in the US, Canada, Europe and Costa Rica. One thing I learned from this experience is that, at many of the gates in the Singapore and Indonesian airports, you go through another metal detector/baggage scan and the gate area doesn’t have food/water/bathrooms/any amenities. We went through this security earlier than we needed to quite a few times, and got stuck with no bathrooms or water. For the gates that did have bathrooms, the bathrooms were usually quite nicer in the main terminal.
Jakarta, Indonesia > Makassar, Indonesia
Our flights to and within Indonesia were all relatively short (~2 hours) and went through the middle of the night (ugggh). After we arrived in Raja Ampat, I told Greyson that I literally could not remember anything about the Jakarta Airport. I knew we went there, but it was totally a blank spot in my mind. When we got there on the way back, I vaguely recognized it. We had a pretty tight connection on our way back, so between that and the exhaustion induced memory loss, I don’t really have any suggestions on what to do at the Jakarta Airport. Sorry!
Makassar, Indonesia > Sorong, Indonesia
Makassar, Indonesia is on the island of Sulawesi, which is known for it’s coffee production. So what is the first thing we did upon arriving at the Makassar Airport? We went to Starbucks. In my defense, it was the only thing open, and I bought nice Sulawesi coffee from the airport gift shop on my way back! The Makassar Airport has a gorgeous tiled ceiling, really clean bathrooms, and several different gift shops if you need some last minute souvenirs. I bought coffee and some batik on my way back home. Makassar Airport has free wifi that was better than the wifi I pay for at my house!
Sorong Indonesia > Raja Ampat
The city of Sorong is a fast expanding hub for Indonesia’s oil and gas industry and the gateway to Raja Ampat. We spent all of our time in Indonesia at Papua Explorers Resort. I’ll do a full post just on my amazing experience there, but they were great for arranging the travel logistics for our final leg. The boat to and from the resort only travels on Sunday and Wednesday, and we arrived on Saturday (48 hours of travel and we lost a day when crossing the International Date Line), so we had to spend a night in Sorong. Two drivers from the resort were waiting for us outside of baggage claim at the Sorong Airport. They loaded up all of our baggage, dropped us off at our hotel (Swiss BelHotel Sorong), and let us know when they’d be picking us up in the morning.
Swiss Belhotel is a Western-style hotel with a pool, nice in room bathrooms and a good restaurant. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Sorong, I’d recommend it. We were exhausted, and, honestly, there didn’t seem to be any “must dos” in Sorong. We basically showered, napped, ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, tried to stay awake, and fell asleep around 6 pm. I woke up ridiculously early and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I just browsed the internet (Swiss BelHotel has free wifi) until breakfast. Breakfast was a HUGE buffet spread of Indonesian and western breakfast favorites. I wish fried rice and noodle dishes were a popular breakfast item in the US. After breakfast and some re-arranging of our luggage, we jumped in the resort’s hired cars and headed for the marina.
The ride to the marina wasn’t too bad, just lots and lots of people on scooters wearing unbuckled helmet. We arrived at the marina without incident and the resort’s porters quickly loaded up the boat for our two hour journey to Papua Explorers Resort. I have never gotten seasick, so I wasn’t too worried about the journey. I felt fine the whole way (though the boat smelled strongly of fish), but Greyson wasn’t too happy. We were closed in a fairly airless cabin, as the boat was low to the water and lots of water was splashing in the front. The ride was pretty calm, but it felt much longer than two hours, and we were all sick of the fish smell by the end. As we slowed down to navigate through the shallow reefs, we made our way onto the small open deck to watch the small islands go by. We finally caught a glimpse of the resort, and saw that the staff had all come out onto the dock to sing a welcome song. It was a great way to end our long journey, and my time at the resort only got better from there!
Whoa, that was a long one! Thanks for sticking through the whole thing, and I hope it was useful for those planning a trip to Indonesia. I have a few more ideas for Indonesia posts, but would be happy to answer any questions anyone has about our trip, SCUBA diving in Indonesia, Raja Ampat, etc. Just let me know in the comments or via email.
P.S. Check out my Instagram for more Indonesia photos!
One of the coolest things I get to do for work every year is putting on the Wild & Scenic Film Festival – South Lake Tahoe. WSFF combines award winning environmental and adventure films with the energy of local activism. Each year we choose powerful environmental and adventure films so that attendees are inspired to take further action regarding issues that impact our environment, ourselves and our world.
The Film Festival is the biggest fundraiser for my program, the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership. SNAP places twenty-eight AmeriCorps members at different conservation agencies and organizations throughout the Sierra Nevada to conduct watershed restoration and monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment and support. Members serve for 11 months with different conservation organizations and agencies across the Sierra to complete watershed restoration and monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment and support.
Since 2007, SNAP Members have
Restored more than 13,000 impaired watershed acres
Educated more than 155,000 individuals on environmental issues in the Sierra
Monitored more than 1,000 sites
Recruited more than 29,000 volunteers
Contributed more than 425,000 service hours!
Obviously, I think SNAP is an awesome program! In addition to supporting SNAP, the Film Festival is a super fun event. We have a silent auction with prizes like whitewater rafting trips, wine tasting, hotel stays, etc., an activism area where guests can learn about local environmental issues, a backstage VIP area, beer and wine, and a filmmaker Q&A.
Most importantly, the films we show are amazing. Our goal for WSFF is “adventure with a message”. We show cool people doing awesome things in beautiful locations, but the underlying message is about the importance of protecting the places we play and beyond.
This year, our first feature film is Martin’s Boat by renowned filmmaker Pete McBride.
“Preeminent conservationist David Brower called him his conscience: in the 1950’s when the Bureau of Reclamation proposed two dams in the Grand Canyon—one at Marble Canyon and the other at Bridge Canyon—the late Martin Litton made sure the Sierra Club didn’t acquiesce. Martin believed the best way for people to understand how important it was to preserve the Grand Canyon was to have them experience this secret world from the river, but not in just any boat. Martin pioneered whitewater dories on the Colorado River in the 1960’s and started a proud tradition of naming the boats after wild places that had been lost or compromised by the hand of man. Now, some 50 years later, America’s open-air cathedral faces continued threats from development and mining and it’s up to all of us to ensure the crown jewel of our National Park system is protected now and for future generations. Martin’s Boat is a film that honors the legacy of Martin Litton and follows the newest boat in the Grand Canyon Dories fleet, the Marble Canyon, on its maiden voyage down the legendary Colorado River through the grandest canyon on Earth.”
Our other feature film is Mile for Mile, made by Patagonia and filmmaker James Q. Martin.
“Ultrarunners Krissy Moehl, Jeff Browning and Luke Nelson ran 106 miles through the newly opened Patagonia Park in Chile, to celebrate and highlight Conservacion Patagonica’s efforts to rewild and protect this vast landscape. Patagonia Park, in the Aysén Region of Chile is now open to the public. The park sweeps from the northern ice cap, down to the Baker River and out to the arid borderlands of Argentina. The park’s glaciated peaks, grasslands, beech forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands still boast all of their original species—and the rivers still run free. Patagonia, Inc. has been involved in this project from day one—helping with the first land purchases, sending volunteers down to rip up hundreds of miles of fencing and restore open grasslands, and fighting mega-dam projects on the nearby Baker and Pascua Rivers.”
In addition to these two amazing features, we’ll be showing 10 other short films ranging in length from 1 – 12 minutes focusing on climbing, paddling, skiing, hiking, and more, from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon to Antarctica.
We’ll be hosting the 11th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival – South Lake Tahoe this Thursday, March 31st in the MontBleu Resort Casino Spa Showroom. If you are in the area, I highly encourage you to attend this event! You can buy tickets ahead of time online here or in person at the Patagonia store in Heavenly Village. We’ll be selling tickets at the door, but there’s a discount if you buy ahead of time. Doors open at 6 pm; films start at 7 pm. Tickets are only $12 for Sierra Nevada Alliance Members.
Thanks for reading my schpiel about my favorite fundraiser for my favorite organization!
I’m still working on my Indonesia recaps, so how about a little flashback? Back in February, Greyson and I traveled to Bellingham to bike, visit friends, and, of course, drink lots of beer. The brewery scene has exploded since I moved away from Bellingham, and I was excited to try the new-to-me Aslan Brewing Co.
“In the pursuit of the perfect beer, we’ve brewed A LOT of different styles. On our pilot system in a little back alley warehouse, we brewed over 130 original batches. From that, we narrowed it down to our favorites, which we refer to as our Flagship lineup. We offer these Flagship styles year round, while our Seasonal styles are rotating to compliment the ever changing tastes & sensations of the current season. At the end of this page you’ll find our brew graveyard. These are styles we’ve brewed in the past that we more than likely won’t brew again. But, who knows? We may very well resurrect one from the dead!”
Aslan Brewing Co. has a beautiful space near downtown Bellingham with indoor and outdoor seating. It was really crowded the Saturday afternoon we visited, but because seating is family style (aka you share long tabels with other groups), we were seated fairly quickly. We weren’t planning on staying long, so we just ordered a couple of beers and chips with queso (they have a full lunch and dinner menu).
I got the Midnight Couloir IPA and Greyson got the Ginger Rye IPA. (Descriptions from Aslan Brewing Co. unless obvious).
Midnight Couloir IPA (4/5)
A special style of IPA brewed to help raise awareness for our friends at the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). Midnight Couloir is a very dark IPA with a robust bitterness and a dry finish. The confluence of rich malt with bitter, piney Northwest hops creates a very complex IPA perfectly paired with the colder months of the year.
Ginger Rye Ale (4.5/5)
This beer falls into the “specialty” category, but it’s based off an American Pale Ale and inspired by a delicious cocktail called the “Moscow Moose”. The ginger is present, yet subtle as is the rye. The wild card is the use of limes, which shine through on the finish. This is an adventurous beer and a staple of our brewery. (Note: I don’t usually like super flavored or “weird” beers, but this ginger rye was delicious! I don’t know if I’d want much more than the 10 oz pour Greyson ordered, but I liked it so much more than I was expecting to.)
After we finished those two beers, we decided that we weren’t done with Aslan Brewing Co. quite yet, so we decided to order a sampler. After much debate, we settled on:
*Dawn Patrol Pacific Ale* (5/5)
This beer is mild yet complex in its delivery. The hop presence is noticed by subtle flavors of pineapples that meld beautifully with the slightly spicy and minty character derived from the use of Rye malt. A somewhat recently pioneered style, this Pacific Ale is delivered unfiltered to accentuate its fresh farm to glass, unprocessed, organic qualities. (My favorite beer at Aslan Brewing Co!) Blueprint Session IPA (5/5)
Named for one of our favorite Baker shred-zones, the Safety Line Session IPA keeps your unquenchable desire for hops satisfied while keeping your mind sharp. Even though the alcohol content has been reduced, the hop content has not. Expect great Northwest hop flavor that is not overwhelmingly bitter, but complex with an array of alpha acids that will surely ignite your senses.
Mosaic IPA (4.75/5)
When we got our hands on a contract for Mosaic hops we knew exactly what to do with them – make an insane IPA. We used Summit hops for bittering, then overdosed the beer with flavor, whirlpool, and dry hop additions of the freshest Mosaic hops that Yakima had to offer. The result is an intense IPA that will leave your taste buds wondering which way is up. Pungent earthy overtones with undertones of white grape fruit and spice.
Batch 15 IPA (3.75/5)
This hoppy creation is everything a Northwest IPA should be. It showcases the amazing resinous and piney characteristics of Simcoe, the crisp citrus of Citra, and the bitterness of Summit hops. Pouring a beautiful opaque orange, this beer is juicy, unfiltered, and delicious!
Northwest Red Ale (3.5/5)
To get a full flavored dark beer that drinks like a Pale Ale, we paired Crystal 120, Roasted Barley and Black malt with Simcoe, Centennial, Citra, and Summit hops. Notes of cherries, strawberries, and citrus dominate the palate, yet are balanced. The result is a dark beer that is surprisingly crisp, full of flavor, and easy to drink.
While we both really liked Aslan Brewing Co., Greyson didn’t love it quite as much as I did. (But I think that’s mostly because I learned to drink beer on Northwest IPAs and they will always remain my favorite). Aslan Brewing Co’s beers reminded me a lot of the beer at Silver Moon Brewing in Bend (my second favorite Bend brewery), while Greyson was more impressed by Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn.
If you’re visiting Bellingham and like beer, make time to visit this brewery. Aslan Brewing Company is a great place to spend an afternoon (rainy or sunny) in Bellingham. The brewery has a beautiful space, good food and excellent beer.